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By MYRON LOVE Carol Matas undoubtedly needs little introduction to most readers. She is a top-selling internationally acclaimed author of 45 books for children and young adults. Her best-selling work, which includes three award-winning series, has been translated into over a dozen languages including Spanish, Catalan, Japanese, Taiwanese, Turkish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, German, French, Indonesian, Bulgarian and Russian. For her latest work though, she has taken a different route.

Tucson Jo, which was named a finalist in the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards (the only Canadian author honoured in the award category for Children’s and Young Adult Literature), is a collaboration between Matas and long-time best friend Morri Mostow. Mostow published the book under her Fictive Press label.
Mostow and Matas first met at Queenston School in Grade 4 where they were in what was then known as Major Work Class. “We have been best friends ever since and kept in touch,” Matas says. Mostow left Winnipeg for Montreal in 1974. She worked for years for Reader’s Digest and says that she has been involved in the business side of writing all of her working life.
She notes that her parents (Harold and Lillian Mostow) continued to live in the family home on Brock Street until 2005.
Consequently, she says, “I could always go home again and I did, once or twice a year for decades. I would get on my old bicycle and pedal around Assiniboine Park, jog on the track of my old high school, Grant Park High, or drop in on friends and family. It was like I had a parallel life in Winnipeg that I could pick up whenever I landed at the airport. My children also spent a great deal of time with their grandparents in that house from the time they were infants. In many respects, I really didn’t leave Winnipeg until 2005, when my mother, after being widowed in 2003, finally sold the family home and moved with my husband and me to Gabriola Island, BC.”
Mostow launched Fictive Press, a digital publisher, in 2011, specifically to publish a book of her husband’s short stories. Fictive Press is a division of BizNet Communications, a corporate and marketing communications firm that she and her husband, Doug Long, have been running since the early 1980s, first in Quebec and, since 2005, on Gabriola Island, BC.
Approaching Morri to publish Tucson Jo (which was reviewed in The Jewish Post & News last fall) was initially a business decision,” Matas says. “A couple of publishers had rejected my manuscript (about a teenaged Jewish girl in the old West) on the grounds that they didn’t think there would be enough of a market for it.
“Also, I was busy with other projects. I thought if I publish Tucson Jo with Morri, we could do it together at our leisure.”
Matas says that she found Mostow to be an exacting editor. “She was quite demanding in checking facts and details,” the author says. “I ended up changing a lot of the story under her guidance. I rewrote practically the last third of the book. It made for a better story.”
She says that she found it fun and challenging working with Mostow. As well, Matas appreciated having an equal say in decisions involving matters such as the book size and cover, and the size of the print.
Another departure for Matas is the fact that Tucson Jo will not be available for purchase off the shelf (except for McNally Robinson here). The book will only be available for order online or as an e-book.
“It will be some years before we know how well this is going to turn out,” Matas says.
In the meantime, Matas and Mostow are planning to collaborate on a new thriller series for young adults called Palm Springs Paranormal, scheduled for release next fall.
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Former Winnipegger Dr. Bruce Ballon has also gone the e-book route with his new effort, Swimming in Cyber, a free guide to dealing with cyber health and behavioural addictions. The book was released on January 28 to coincide with Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” day for mental health awareness.
“Having to explain and explore often the same information to families, teachers and others regarding cyber health and behavioural addictions,” he explains, “I took the time to write a book containing my own personal thoughts on the subject. I tried to write it in a friendly, engaging, common-sense manner.
The son of Henry and Frances Ballon left Winnipeg in 1993 to do his residency in Toronto. Since 1998, he has been an associate professor at the University of Toronto and Director of the Psychiatry Simulation Innovation Centre for the university at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Ballon began his psychiatric career working with children. “It turned out though, that I was seeing mainly teens with drug addiction issues,” he says. “Beginning in the late 1990’s, we started seeing more and more patients with addictions to technology in the form of video games and social networking websites, online gambling and surfing the net for pornography.”
Ballon likens online addiction to gambling addiction but, he notes, the former has only recently been recognized as a condition and there has been very little funding available for research.
“Net addiction does blend into gambling addiction treatment programs,” he says. “Many of the online games and platforms are designed with gambling addiction in mind.”
He points out that video games are a method of coping or escapism for many people suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental conditions.
“In my treatment programs, I adopt a systemic approach,” he reports. “The environment and the family have to be involved. After all, the parents are the ones who pay the bills and have to be aware if their children are showing signs of addiction.”
Among the clues are physical and mental health issues and difficulties at school (or at work, for older individuals). “You know there’s a problem when an individual’s life is centred around the internet and everything else is secondary,” he says.
Ballon has authored numerous other works on the subject. He says that he chose to put his new work online because he wants people to be able to access the book freely as a resource.
He reports that the book is available on several different e-book sites, and that over 700 people downloaded the book on the first day that it was available online.
Interested readers of this column can check out the book on http://www.amazon.ca/SWIMMING-CYBER-Learning-HEALTHILY-intersections-ebook/dp/B00RKH7NH4/ref=sr_1_1?ie= UTF8&qid=1421706084&sr=8-1&keywords=swimming+in+cyber or https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/505529.
“If you want it on KINDLE,” he says, “it currently is 99 cents USD - but if you ask them to “price match” smashwords (or iTunes etc. once it is up there) Amazon usually will set it to free as well.”